Letters Don’t Have to be Perfect

  • Situation

    I have a student who wants to erase his writing repeatedly to try and make it more perfect. Can you offer any advice?

  • Summary

    Students may  have a difficult time with writing for a variety of reasons. In this case, it seems that your student is having a difficult time accepting “less than perfect” writing and  is compelled to erase repeatedly.


    Create a behavior story for your student that: is written from his perspective, contains descriptive statements that will help him identify the situation, provides directions for  appropriate behaviors and expectations, and provides real strategies for coping with the situation. A behavior story should be read at the start of school as “pre-correction” or even at home the night before school. They should be read frequently.

  • Definition

    A behavior story is a simple description of an everyday situation that is problematic for a child, written from a child’s perspective. The situation is described in detail and focuses on the important social cues, events, expectations and appropriate ways for the child to behave. Behavior stories are intended to be used with a child prior to an event. It is rehearsed with an adult so that when the event actually occurs, the child can use the story as a guide for behavior.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 3-5, 6-10, 11-13
    • Planning Effort: Low
    • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Pre-requisites

    Ability to read the story OR attend to and comprehend the story being read aloud.

  • Process

    1. Determine the desired behavior to be addressed. In this case, limiting the amount of times he should erase his writing. Set an appropriate goal that is initially attainable. For example, if the student typically erases about 6 times, have the expectation  be that he erases only 5 times. An incentive system (awarding tokens, stickers, points) can be put in place for each time he reduces his erasing. Overtime, reduce the number of times he should erase to shape the desired outcome.

    2. Write the story using guidelines above. (also see Related Resources section for sample story and other information)

    3. Review the story with your student each morning or before a writing assignment.

    4. Positively reinforce the student (verbal and/or tangible) for trying to reduce his erasing and re-assure him that letters don’t have to be perfect, just legible!


    It is important to share all  information with the student’s team.  Team members should use the same “language” from the behavior story and have consistent expectations for all assignments that include writing.  If an occupational therapist is a team member they should educate everyone about what is acceptable writing behaviors based upon the student’s skill and/or anxiety level.

  • Documents and Related Resources

    Carol Gray Social Stories  (website with information on writing social stories)


    Writing with a Pencil (Behavior Story Word document -for younger children)


    Letter Do Not Have To Be Perfect (Behavior Story Word document-for older children)


    If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.